Course Change Needed for Addressing Homelessness in Danbury

"For you and others in our country who stereotype the homeless, know this; many homeless are veterans, poor seniors, or just others down on their luck. AND also the bastardized addicted. I live at the shelter, am an alcoholic who has just completed a program, college educated, well-dressed, seeking work, working with relapse counselors, and at a computer daily applying for work. I'm not sitting around waiting for free housing; if not offered, I will do this by hard work like the rest of America." -Danbury Homeless Facebook page

By Al Robinson -

As we approach the winter season and colder temperatures, it's disgraceful that the city of Danbury has no plan in place to shelter its most vulnerable residents. 

It's been over a year since the Zoning Commission foolishly rejected a sensible homeless shelter proposal at the former Super 8 Hotel on Mill Plain Road. The plan would have addressed years-long concerns regarding the lack of beds for the city's homeless population and offered a reasonable solution to the shameful and inhumane treatment of people in desperate need of assistance that has plagued this city for decades. 

The City Zoning Commission's rationale behind rejecting the plan was not due to the merits of land-use regulations but rather due to push-back from heartless residents who claimed that the establishment would harm the character of the neighborhood. These comments are laughable since the shelter's location has been described by many residents as the epicenter for drug trafficking and prostitution in the city for decades. 

In the time between the rejection of the city's only shelter and today, more has needed to be done to address the fact that people in need of supportive housing will have no place to go for refuge in the state's seventh-largest city. 

State politicians who spoke endlessly about underfunded schools couldn't offer a word about the homeless population, which local bureaucrats have overlooked, most likely because addressing the topic could hurt their re-election prospects. The mayor established a "task force" to address the issue in April and has not come up with a solution as the temperature outside drops and outdoor conditions worsen.

This response to a desperate situation is unacceptable and should be condemned by everyone who believes that the well-being of society's most vulnerable residents should be a top priority.

As we approach next year's municipal election season, how elected officials in Danbury address homelessness should be a top campaign issue, as this city desperately needs a course change regarding how it handles providing shelter for its poor and disadvantaged residents.